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Linebackers lead potential Day 2 steals

4/17/2012

We've talked plenty in recent weeks about players who project in the first round, but there are plenty of good prospects who will slip out of the first. Which prospects could slide into Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) and present good value for the teams that end up taking them? Here are five names to watch as potential steals in that range.

California ILB Mychal Kendricks

Kendricks is a productive player who took his game to another level in 2011. He's athletic, fast (4.47 in the 40-yard dash) and free-flowing, and while he's a bit undersized (5-foot-11⅛, 239 pounds) Kendricks is tough and locates the ball quickly.

His speed gives him good range, and he is an above-average tackler. Kendricks is an asset on passing downs with range in zone coverage; the fluidity to match up with backs and tight ends in man coverage; and solid pass-rush skills when applying pressure from the interior.

Kendricks can play inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or middle/weakside linebacker in a 4-3, and there are plenty of teams that could use his versatility along the front seven. He projects right around No. 40 to the Carolina Panthers, but the Eagles, Lions and Cincinnati Bengals could also have interest in the second round.

Nebraska OLB Lavonte David

The more tape I watched on David the more liked him, and he ended up with a fringe first-round grade. However, he's a bit undersized (6-0⅝, 233 pounds) and 4-3 outside linebackers are low on the positional-value totem pole, so there are things working against him.

Still, David is a sideline-to-sideline run defender who knows how to stay off blocks and take on blocks without being engulfed by bigger offensive linemen. He also shows phenomenal instincts against the run and in coverage and he is a very solid tackler.

The New York Giants were a possibility with the last pick in the first round before trading for Keith Rivers, but as it stands now the Panthers would be a good fit early in the second round. The Buffalo Bills are also a possibility at No. 41 overall, and any other team in that range with a linebacker need would be thrilled to get David.

Miami RB Lamar Miller

Alabama's Trent Richardson is in a class of his own atop the running back board, and I've talked a lot recently about Boise State's Doug Martin separating himself as the No. 2 back. That leaves Miller (5-10¾, 212) and Virginia Tech's David Wilson to fight it out for the third spot, and in my opinion Miller gets the nod.

His quickness, lateral agility and ability to explode out of cuts are better than any other back, and that's something that just can't be coached. Some question his ability to contribute in the passing game, but he's a better blocker than he's given credit for (remember, he nursed a shoulder injury for most of the season that eventually required surgery) and he looks natural enough catching the ball on tape. Throw in his explosiveness, and Miller can become a threat in that area.

And even if Miller doesn't to everything at an elite level and won't be an every-down, bell-cow back, his big-play ability is something that will pay off at the next level. There aren't many teams with running back needs before the later part of the second round, but teams such as the Denver Broncos (No. 57), Green Bay Packers (59), Baltimore Ravens (60) and Giants (63) could pull the trigger late in the second and get very good value. Should Miller somehow fall into the third round, the team that scoops him up there will be stealing.

Marshall DE Vinny Curry

This year's defensive end class is very deep, and seven other ends -- Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones, Courtney Upshaw, Andre Branch, Nick Perry and Whitney Mercilus -- could be taken ahead of Curry (6-3⅛, 266). All of those players have better natural ability, but Curry does have above-average tools and gets as much as he can out of them, especially as a pass-rusher.

Curry has good first-step quickness and the ability to convert speed to power. He shows a wide array of pass-rush moves and can bend the edge tightly when he gains the advantage on a blocker. Most importantly, he has a great motor and impressive work ethic and passion for the game, and guys like that rarely fail at the next level. Put the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 46), Chicago Bears (50), Tennessee Titans (52) and Detroit Lions (54) among the teams that could have interest in the second round, and it won't surprise me if Curry becomes more productive than some of the players taken ahead of him.

Georgia TE Orson Charles

Charles' lack of height (6-2.5 , 251) is a knock against him, and he did not post a great 40 time (mid-4.7 range) during the pre-draft process. He was also arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in early March, so Charles' stock has dropped into the third-round range.

There's not much difference, though, between Charles and Dwayne Allen, who ranks just ahead of him on the tight end board. Allen is a bit bigger (6-31, 255) and a little more agile, but I still think Charles can be a consistent performer in the NFL.

He gets off the line quickly, accelerates down the field and plays faster than his 40 time indicates. He also has solid hands and body control as a receiver. And while his lack of size means he can't always sustain as a blocker, Charles does give good effort in that area.

It also seems like Charles' arrest is an isolated incident. He shows very good football character, was a team captain and worked hard in the classroom and on the field during his time at Georgia. He will pay for making a bad decision, but a team such as the Bears, Bills, Oakland Raiders or Indianapolis Colts could fill a need and get plenty of value by taking Charles in the third round.